Posted on May 5, 2016

Shoulder replacement regains his active lifestyle just months following surgery.

Arthritis had taken its toll on Dave’s shoulders. He was in constant pain. Sleeping was difficult and it was nearly impossible for him to take part in activities that he loves.  Then, two friends with similar shoulder issuesD.Hapke in Kayak referred Dave to shoulder surgeon, Dr. Seth Miller at ONS.  “When I met him, I immediately knew he was the doctor I wanted to care for me. He was thorough, thoughtful and patient. He has a great bedside manner and took the time to completely answer all my questions,” he recalled. 

Dave had his first shoulder replacement in January, 2013; the second one was done a year later. In both instances, the therapists had him doing exercises the day after surgery, which he continued at home within the week. Through a physical therapy program over the next few months, Dave was able to build muscle mass to help support his new shoulders.

Just 16 weeks after surgery, Dave was back on the water kayaking pain free. These days, he goes to the gym 2- 3 times a week and kayaks quite a bit on ponds, lakes and streams. He can even carry his  kayak.

“I am so grateful to have my active life back, thanks to ONS!” he said.

Shoulder replacement surgery and reverse shoulder replacement surgery is not for everyone. In many cases, treatment such as icing, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy can help get shoulder pain from arthritis under control. However, if pain persists, as it did with Dave, it may be time to consider a surgical option, notes Dr. Miller.

With arthritis and some fractures and injuries, the cartilage of the shoulder gradually wears away, creating a situation where bone is rubbing against bone. The resulting inflammation is extremely painful and makes shoulder mobility progressively more difficult. This condition typically develops later in life and gets worse over time.

The shoulder replacement procedure replaces the damaged joint with a highly-polished metal ball attached to a stem and a plastic socket. As long as a patient has an intact functioning rotator cuff, it can be an extremely successful procedure.

However, there is a group of patients that not only have significant cartilage damage in their shoulder, but also have a torn rotator cuff that is beyond repair. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that run from the shoulder blade to the upper arm and allows patient to elevate their arm. Twenty years ago, treatment options were limited. In 2004, the FDA approved a reverse shoulder replacement procedure that was being used successfully overseas.

The surgery takes about two hours and involves a small incision, usually about three to four inches in length. Patients can expect to stay in the hospital somewhere from one to three days. Patients will be released with their arm in a sling, and undergo exercises to reestablish range of motion with the joint.

Between four and eight weeks after surgery, patients should be able to raise their arms above their heads without pain. Three to four months after surgery, patients are gradually resuming the activities of daily living. Many patients remark after recovery that they feel like they’ve been given their life back.

ONS’ Dr. Seth Miller was one of the first in the metropolitan area to perform reverse shoulder replacement surgery. He will take part in a Joint Replacement Symposium at Greenwich Hospital with ONS colleagues and joint replacement surgeons Drs. Frank Ennis and Brian Kavanagh.

The event will be held on Wed. May 11 starting at 6 p.m.  To register, call 203-863-4277 or online.